Orange Farm teens turn skateboarding into art

They dream of a proper skate park someday

Katlego Ratone takes an oille move over Edmund Tau at Orange Farm, South of Joburg.
Katlego Ratone takes an oille move over Edmund Tau at Orange Farm, South of Joburg.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

In a small and dusty street of Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, a group of teenage girls and boys set up all kinds of objects to create artificial obstacles for their skateboarding sessions. 

The teenagers use two cans of paint cans, loaded with bricks to balance a wooden board to create a stable ramp in preparation for their moves. Just a few metres from the ramp, a concrete kerb is laid on top of three bricks and is applied with candle wax to create a smooth board slide.  

With just a few skateboards and a narrow space in the middle of the street they take turns in skating. It’s an unusual spectacle and the young and old watch in awe as the group take turn flipping their boards over the obstacles.

A group of young skateboarders ready to start their hobby.
A group of young skateboarders ready to start their hobby.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Mpho Khambule, explains that skateboarding seems more like a form of art than a sporting code. Ever since him and his friend Sibongakonke Mngomezulu started skating, their passion has been fuelled by others who decided to join their team, Orange Farm Grind Club. 

“I started getting interested in 2021. Sibongakonke and I would skate often after school, we then started advertising on social media to have others join us. Some of them we asked to randomly be part of the team and they showed interest. 

“The reason I say it’s more of an art form than a sport is because I feel like skateboarding allows me to express myself whichever way I would like. When we started, we bought our skateboards for only R150,” said Khambule.

 He said the biggest challenge for them has been finding the right place to do skate. As the group gets bigger, the young ones are starting to pour in for training. 

“We do not have enough space to practise and that is because skateboarding is not that big especially here in Orange Farm, so no-one thought of making a skateboard park. Now that our team is growing, we must work with what we have. Wherever we go, people do not seem to like us that much. Most of the time, we are told that we think we own the streets. Some say we make a lot of noise,” he said. 

With them being chased out of the streets and unused mall parking lot, Mpumelelo Radebe said the team finds it hard to reach its fullest potential when it comes to perfecting the skill. 

It takes timing and commitment to hone the skill as a skateboarder.
It takes timing and commitment to hone the skill as a skateboarder.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

“There are levels to this, but we find ourselves not being able to reach where we want, for us to excel and start competing with others, we need stable and reliable skateboards. We are using the cheap ones and they need a lot of maintenance.  

“There are people outside SA who have turned this into their professions but I do not think we will be able to do so because of the lack of infrastructure,” said Radebe. 

For them, their skateboards are not just that, they can sometimes skate to the nearest shop. Mlungisi Zondo chooses to call it a mode of transport. 

“I even go to the mall, just skating all the way. I don’t even walk that much any more. It has become a big part of my life. Not all our parents are supportive, I must always sacrifice the money I get for airtime to pay for the maintenance of my skateboard, that is how much I love it.  

“Skateboarding is a sport that encourages you to keep trying again, when you fall, you have to get up and do it again. It celebrates failure. When you fall, it means you are learning and are willing to put your body on the line. You always have to do your tricks by jumping over a ramp or do an ollie [a trick] and if you overcome that, it’s a sign of bravery,” said Zondo. 

With a few more quality skateboards and a skate park, the Orange Farm Grind Club believes that they can continue to take the children off the streets by teaching them what they already know, while they learn advanced moves.

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